A report conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona (UA) stresses the critical relationship between childhood illness and the effectiveness of cleaning programs at daycare centers.

The study, titled “Hygiene Intervention on Illness in Childcare Centers,” evaluated 12 Tuscon, Ariz.-area daycare centers over a 10-week period. Six of the centers, called intervention centers, were asked to participate in following a “recommended cleaning-and-disinfecting routine,” while the other six centers followed their normal cleaning procedures, serving as a control group.

The six intervention centers were given five different cleaning products: a floor-cleaning chemical, disinfecting wipes, disinfecting spray, a regular bleach cleaner and toilet bowl cleaner. The intervention centers were given “detailed protocol” to follow in their cleaning procedures. The protocol included where to use each cleaning product, exactly how much product should be used, and how many times per week. Study personnel delivered new cleaning products to the intervention centers once per week.

The differences in childhood illness were significant, according to researchers. In the centers that followed the study’s cleaning protocol, children were: 37 percent less likely to experience diarrheal illness; 36 percent less likely to receive prescriptions for antibiotics; 17 percent less likely to report earaches; and 10 percent less likely to show symptoms of upper respiratory illness, such as cold or flu, compared to children in the control group.

Facilities in each group cared for between 30 and 100 children each day.

“This study shows how simple steps — from routinely washing hands to disinfecting commonly touched surfaces — can help to interrupt the cycle of germ transmission,” said Charles Gerba, UA professor of environmental microbiology. “This cycle is common in daycare and other group settings where contagious diseases are spread from surfaces to hands and mouth.”

Past research, by groups such as the Child Day Care Infectious Disease Study Group, has overwhelmingly shown that children who attend daycare centers have significantly more infections than those cared for at home. The UA study goes beyond that research to determine what role cleaning procedures play in the problem of infection.

“Distributors have a vital role to play in preventing this kind of illness,” said Joe Nelmar, president of Great Lakes Supply & Chemical, Michigan City, Ind. “It might seem obvious, but distributors need to take the time to show their customers how to disinfect those surfaces, like desks, that are always being touched. Giving that kind of instruction will give a distributor a solid reputation and probably increase sales.”

“This is one situation when sharing isn’t such a good thing,” said Bruce Hershfield, director of child care and development at the Child Welfare League of America. “This study provides important data for both public health agencies and parents — as they cope with sick days for kids, doctors’ visits and antibiotic prescriptions.”


NAW Study: Jobs Coming
The National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), recently completed a survey of its largest members that indicates significant job expansion over the course of 2004. According to the survey, 67 percent of the respondents intend to increase their work forces this year. The survey also revealed that, on average, these companies will grow their number of employees by 4.7 percent.

Rubbermaid to Sell Non-Jan/san Businesses
Newell Rubbermaid Inc., Atlanta, recently announced that the company has entered agreements to sell three of its businesses: picture frames, glassware and cookware. The selling of these businesses will allow Rubbermaid to concentrate on its core business of products in the jan/san industry.

Patent Lawsuit Ends
Rieke Packaging Systems, Auburn, Ind., recently announced that its patent dispute with Airspray International B.V. has ended.

The original suit involved Airspray’s rights to foamer product patents. Prior to settlement, Rieke defeated Airspray in a German patent infringement suit and the companies faced a lawsuit in the United States involving similar issues as in the German suit.

U.S. Green Building Council Adds Paper
Bay West, Harrodsburg, Ky., recently announced that the company has joined the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Bay West is the first paper manufacturer to join the Council.


James Austin Co., Mars, Pa., a jan/san manufacturer, recently announced the acquisition of Elite Chemical.

Dade Paper, Miami, recently announced that it has acquired certain assets of Continental Paper Products Inc., Miami, including Continental’s warehouse, trucks, inventory, customer lists and IT data. Continental’s primary customer base stretches from Miami-Dade to Palm Beach, Fla., a key trading area for Dade Paper.

3M, St. Paul, Minn., recently announced that it has acquired Hornell International, a global supplier of personal safety equipment in Gagnef, Sweden. Combining Hornell’s product technology for eye, face and respiratory protection with 3M’s full spectrum of health and safety products will enhance 3M’s growth in safety supplies, said Mike Kelly of 3M.


The National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) recently objected to the fact that the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, Washington, is currently discussing Hazmat regulations as part of its six-year highway bill. The Committee’s goal was to have the bill, which will set government regulations for highway transportation and shipping, ready for the full House by early April.

Along with 40 other trade associations, the NACD wrote to the Committee, stating: “Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) issues affecting public safety and security are far too complex to be enacted without the benefit of congressional hearings.”

The Senate passed its version of the highway bill, which contains provisions that could weaken federal control over Hazmat regulation, in February.

Columbia: Antibacterial Soaps No Different

Researchers at Columbia University, New York, recently announced their findings that antibacterial soaps do not deliver the health benefits perceived by the majority of people who use them. The study was published in a recent edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Antibacterial cleaning products were given to 120 New York City families, and those families were monitored for one year. According to researchers, the products did not reduce the risk for symptoms of the viral infections that are among the most common causes of colds, coughs and stomachaches.

Elaine Larson, lead author for the study, said that the results weren’t a surprise, because the products are designed to kill bacteria, not viruses. “People think, in their heads, that if they use an antibacterial soap, it will keep them from getting an infection,” she said. “What we found is that these products don’t offer much added value.”

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): New Employee Benefit

Employers and HR specialists in the jan/san industry are no doubt familiar with the acronyms and abbreviations that are often found in the wonderful world of employee benefits: FSAs, MSAs, HRAs, HIPAA, ERISA, and COBRA, just to name a few. The plans that these initials represent have been around for some time. Now, employers can take advantage of another addition to the above-mentioned alphabet soup: HSAs (Health Savings Accounts).

The HSA is a plan created by the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act of 2003 and may provide another valuable way for employers to better manage the rising tide of health care costs. ”We are all well aware that these costs have been soaring 15 to 20 percent or more per year and that employers are looking for ways to do something about it,” says Tim Pederson, president of a Wisconsin-based employee benefits administration and consulting firm.

“As with some of the other plans, HSAs were created to provide employers with another tool to promote consumerism in health care by transferring some of the responsibility for managing health care costs to employees,” he says. The idea is to give health care consumers more options regarding health care spending and the freedom to roll health care forward to future years.

Pederson, who runs Diversified Benefit Services in the Milwaukee suburb of Hartland, explains that HSAs are tax-exempt trusts modeled after the better-known Archer MSAs (Medical Savings Accounts) that were created several years ago. “The HSA has some of the same components as the Archer MSA with several modifications,” he says. “The type of medical plan — including minimum deductible amounts — will determine whether a person is eligible for an HSA.” Some believe HSAs will replace MSAs in the future.

These facts are important, says Pederson:

  • HSAs are completely free of federal taxes, but to qualify, an individual must be covered only by a high-deductible health insurance plan with a minimum self-only deductible of at least $1,000 and a $2,000 deductible for family coverage.

  • The amount of money that can be contributed to the HSA on an annual basis can be up to $2,600 for self-only or $5,150 for a family. These numbers are indexed from 1997 when MSAs were first created.

  • Employers, too, can contribute to their employees’ HSAs. To people’s surprise, the Act allowed the HSA to be set up via a salary reduction arrangement within a cafeteria plan. If the employer contributes money to the HSA, the amount contributed reduces the employee contribution dollar for dollar.

  • Rollovers are allowed, so if the money hasn’t been used from one year to the next, it stays in the trust and continues to roll forward.

  • Distributions from the plan that qualify are not subject to tax. However, if the distribution does not qualify, ordinary income tax applies, plus a 10 percent penalty.

“But note this,” Pederson cautions, “because HSAs are so new, there are a number of factors that the IRS needs to clarify. The Treasury Department has indicated that their guidance is set for a tentative release date of June 2004.”


In SM’s March issue, a news item, “K-C Looking to Shed Paper Units,” did not clarify which of K-C’s B2B units were part of a proposed spin-off. The businesses being evaluated for potential spin-off are: Neenah Paper and Technical Paper and the pulp and timber assets in Pictou, Nova Scotia, and Terrace Bay, Ontario. K-C’s Professional Business is not affected by the proposed spin-off.